Yesterday’s 2013 World Caber Tossing Championships took place with an international field of heavy athletes at the Inveraray Highland Games.
This was held in the grounds of Inveraray Castle and was a superbly well organised spectacular with a huge number of stalls and an appreciative audience of around 4,000.
The cyclists were mesmerising is a particular event called ‘The De’il take the hindmost’. They were cycling on a field grass track, absolutely energy sapping, lap after lap, with the hindmost dropping out at the end of each lap until a point where all left, other than the top three, were taken off. Then it was a flat out last lap, with a strategically watchful red-shirted racer who had been on the front line from the start, avoiding the attentions of the ‘De’il’ and taking the win.
The heavy athletes are the traditional focus of attention at any Highland Games and THE event at Inveraray yesterday was the World Caber Tossing Championships, won by Inveraray to host in consequence of sponsorship for the event from the town’s deservedly renowned George Hotel.
The owner of the George, the fifth generation of his family to do so, Donald Clark – or Big Donald – was reported to have said: ‘What can I sponsor but the heavy events?’
The qualifying session came first, with the only thing certain being that the name on the trophy at the end would be a new one. None of the field had competed in the World Championships before.
For anyone who’s not seen a caber tossing event before, everything about it is fascinating.
The Inveraray caber is 20′ long and all competitors use the same one, agreeing on it from a small line of alternatives. A new caber was used for the final – possibly because of the accumulation of greasy sweat at the gripping point of the one used for the qualifying session.
Each competitor has three goes in both qualifying and the final – and only three made it through to the final.
- the well known and successful Highland Games competitor, Bruce Robb from Dalgety Bay [no jokes about whether or not he glows green after dark, thanks to the MoD's radioactive pollution of the beach there] – who has nevertheless no great record of success at the Caber;
- Scott Ryder from London;
- Neil Elliot from Helensburgh.
It takes a group of around 4 carriers to present the caber to each competitor for each throw.
They tote it along horizontally, then the end man starts walking under it raising it above his head and the front three do the same.
The foot of it heads groundwards and is braced between the competitor’s two splayed feet, heels together.
Finally, there is just him and the last of the carriers steadying the caber for him, then leaving him to it.
The athlete slides his hands down the caber, squatting down low with 90% of it above him. Not one competitor wobbled the thing at this stage. It was astonishingly steady.
When he’s ready, the competitor quickly grips the very foot of the caber and stands up.
This is the hairy period. The act of standing up encourages the caber to lean backwards to some degree – in some cases, quite noticeably so. The trees in the background are a good benchmark.
The athlete has to move smartly backwards himself at this point, to outrun the caber and to try to recover its vertical stability.
As he does so, there’s a bit of a hush followed by the audience collectively voicing an indrawn breath.
When he’s got it under control he starts to make his run forwards as soon as possible. Above is Scott Ryder on the run up to one of his winning final throws.
The athletes who’ve used up a shedload of energy stopping the caber from falling back, tend not to run far and to get rid of it as best they can as early as possible.
These will never be qualifying throws because they could not generate the power in a short run to throw the caber high enough for what had been the top of it to hit the ground as close to vertical as possible, with the momentum carrying the caber turning on through 90 degrees to its final position. on the ground.
It’s not distance thrown that scores points. It’s the closest the athlete gets the caber to a final landing position at 12 o’clock to himself.
There are two judges – one watching the vertical stability of the caber; the second looking at the angle of elevation achieved in the actual throw.
Of the three finalists,
- Neil Elliot from Helensburgh performed best in the qualifier but fell back in the final.
- Bruce Robb, to our inexpert eye, produced the most consistent vertical stability of the caber.
- Scott Ryder won, with all three throws completing the necessary 270 degrees.
Scott Ryder is now the new and 2013 World Champion at the caber.
Elsewhere on the field, considerably lighter and younger athletes took on a mouthwatering climbing wall, just for the fun of it.
All the evidence from the smiling faces yesterday was that a good time really was had by all.